Submission to Toronto Catholic District School Board

by the Catholic Network for Women’s Equality
and Catholics for a Choice-Canada
regarding Hallowe’en Fund-raising
February 6, 2003

In 1996, the Vatican cut off its annual contribution to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), charging that the UN agency was involved in the distribution of contraceptives contrary to Catholic church teaching. It called upon Catholics to review their support of the charity, but did not issue any directives on the subject.

As a result, some Catholic school boards have decided not to allow the collection for UNICEF by children at Hallowe’en. The Toronto District Catholic School Board (TDCSB), voted on this issue at meetings held on July 18, 1997 and August 20, 1998. The Trustees agreed at those times that the only charities for which Toronto area Catholic children could collect funds at Hallowe’en were:

1. The Holy Childhood Association;
2. Development and Peace, and
3. Aid to Women.

This policy has not been changed since that time. The purpose of this submission is to request that the TDCSB re-open this issue, and either allow children to collect again for UNICEF, or at the least, replace “Aid to Women” with another charity.

We understand that representatives of UNICEF will be making a presentation to the TDCSB regarding its use of funding, and so we will not elaborate on that in this brief. Suffice it to say that UNICEF endorsed the 1994 Cairo International Conference on Population and Development, which made it clear that family planning programmes must be a part of a wider approach to improved child survival, safe motherhood and reproductive health. While the Vatican may try to coerce UNICEF and other agencies to follow its positions on family planning, the overwhelming majority of Catholics themselves reject these positions. A 1993 Angus Reid Group poll indicated that 91% of Canadian Catholics approve of the use of birth control and contraceptive devices, and a Gallup Canada survey in the same year showed that only 10% of Canadian Catholics agree that abortion should be illegal in all circumstances.

UNICEF is an internationally known agency whose mission/purpose is to help the children of the world. It is a non-denominational charity, and one which is easily recognized by average donors, such as the people who would be handing out candy and funds to trick-or-treating children. The UNICEF boxes which children use on Hallowe’en and which are part of a fund-raising campaign are well known, and donors do not expect to see any other kind of fund-raising at their doors on Hallowe’en. In addition to this, Toronto is perhaps the most multi-cultural city in the world, and many Hallowe’en donors who are happy to donate to a non-denominational charity, do not want to give to a charity with religious ties. We submit that it is misleading to have children collect for charities other than UNICEF, unless this difference is clearly pointed out to the donor. This is unlikely to be done by the children, who also should not be put in the position of being rebuffed at the door by donors who may not agree with the charity for which they are collecting.

1. Background
“Aid to Women” is the operating name of a non-profit corporation called “Lifeline”. It has a charitable tax number, and describes itself as a “pregnancy crisis centre”. It is located at 300 Gerrard Street East, in Toronto, on the upper floor of a two-story semi-detached building. The occupant of the other half of this semi is the “Cabbagetown Women’s Clinic”, a health facility funded by the Ontario Ministry of health. Health professionals at this clinic provide birth control counseling and perform abortions.

“Aid to Women”used to share accommodation with an organization called “The Way Inn”, which was located immediately beside another abortion clinic on Harbord Street in Toronto. “The Way Inn” was begun by a Baptist minister named Ken Campbell and was a centre for anti-abortion activism. In 1989, an injunction was obtained, restraining all anti-abortion activity in front of that abortion clinic. In 1992, the abortion clinic was bombed and no suspects have ever been charged.

2. Violations of Injunction
Joanne Dieleman, a volunteer at “The Way Inn”, a founding member of “Aid to Women”and a member of the Canadian Reformed Church, was one of the persons named in a second injunction, which was issued in 1994 to restrain anti-abortion activities in the vicinity of abortion clinics or doctors’ homes. This injunction is still in effect, and prohibits anti-abortion activities within 500 feet of doctors’ homes, within 25 feet of doctors’ offices, and within 60 feet of two clinics and 30 feet of a third clinic. Both injunctions were obtained in order to deal with the harassment of patients and clinic workers at the legal abortion clinics and to stem the violence which so often occurred at these clashes.

Volunteers and staff at “Aid to Women” carry out what they call “sidewalk counseling”. They approach women who may be headed towards the legal abortion clinics and attempt to divert them into the “Aid to Women” offices. This is often done in violation of the injunction. It always involves the violation of the privacy of women seeking medical services. The volunteers of “Aid to Women” call out to and importune these patients, hold up placards and aggressively attempt to hand out pamphlets to passers-by. Some volunteers purposely mislead the patients, who go into the “Aid to Women” offices thinking that they are going into the abortion clinic. Dieleman estimated that as many as five women a day have mistakenly gone into “Aid to Women” (Catholic Insight, October 2001). The abortion clinic often has volunteers usher in the patients, so that they do not have to endure the emotional tirade of the “Aid to Women” volunteers alone, and do not mistakenly end up in the “Aid to Women” offices.

The injunction is frequently violated. Another of the volunteers at “Aid to Women” is Linda Gibbons, also a member of the Christian Reformed Church. She has purposely violated the injunction and has served time in jail for the violations (Interim, July 1999).

3. St. Michael’s Hospital Disassociates itself from “Aid to Women”
The actions of “Aid to Women” volunteers have often contributed to a general atmosphere of violence. On one occasion in the summer of 2002, volunteers from “Aid to Women” intercepted a patient who had an appointment at the Cabbagetown Women’s Clinic, and took her to St. Michael’s Hospital in order that she not continue with a medical termination which had already been started. This lead to an altercation in the hospital, as “Aid to Women” and the patient’s support worker argued over the apparent abduction of this woman (who went on to terminate the pregnancy), resulting in a call to the police and charges being laid against the support worker. As a result of this Dr. Phillip Berger, Chief of Family and Community Medicine at St. Michael’s Hospital stated in a letter dated August 30, 2002 to the manager of the Scott Clinic (another clinic which provides medical termination of pregnancies) that:

“As of today, SMH Family Practice Unit physicians will not accept referrals on behalf of patients from “Aid to Women” or persons known to be associated with “Aid to Women”.

4. Misleading the public
As has been mentioned, the collection boxes for “Aid to Women” are very similar to the familiar UNICEF orange and black box. Donors would not know the difference, on a dark doorstep. In addition to this, “Aid to Women” does its own door to door fund raising, at which time it represents itself as a “women’s shelter” (as the name would suggest). Some teachers and principals of Toronto area Catholic schools, when asked about “Aid to Women”, also thought that this was a women’s shelter.

5. Legal challenges to “Aid to Women”
“Aid to Women” currently has charitable tax status, but a number of complaints have been lodged with Canada Customs and Revenue Agency in an effort to have this status revoked on the grounds that it is a political group with the aim of re-criminalizing abortion. Charitable tax status has already been revoked from Human Life International and Alliance for Life, anti-abortion groups with similar goals.

“Aid to Women” received $9,000.00 from the Hallowe’en collections in 2000 (Interim, October 2001) and $3281.00 in 1998 (Revenue Canada return). The collection boxes are very similar to those of UNICEF, being black and orange, with a picture of a mother and a child shown on it. They are virtually indistinguishable, especially on a doorstep at night. We submit that the vast majority of people who put money into these boxes thinks that the donation is to UNICEF, and that it is misleading for the Toronto District Catholic School Board to be involved in this intentional confusion carried out by “Aid to Women”. Indeed, some teachers and principals of Catholic schools seem themselves to be confused about “Aid to Women”, as some of them told parents that it was a shelter for abused women

There have also been allegations made that “Aid to Women” volunteers hold themselves out as medical practitioners. Anyone who misrepresents himself or herself as a health care professional is committing a serious breach of ethical and legal standards. A former patient of the Cabbagetown clinic, who was lured into “Aid to Women” offices under false pretenses has indicated her intention to lay a complaint before the College of Physicians and Surgeons regarding this allegation.

We urge the TDCSB to reinstate its support for the Hallowe’en UNICEF collections. UNICEF is an important and respected charity whose goals are widely supported by Catholics. Hallowe’en donors have come to expect to see UNICEF boxes at the doorstep on Hallowe’en, and it is misleading to have a collection for another charity, especially when the collection boxes for the two are so similar. Finally, Toronto is a multi-cultural and pluralistic city, and it is not appropriate to collect funds for Catholic charities from non-Catholics.

However, even if the TDCSB continues its ban on UNICEF Hallowe’en collection, we should not associate our children or our religion with a group as controversial as “Aid to Women”. There are many other charities with the goal of aiding pregnant women continue their pregnancies, which are in fact associated with the Catholic religion (such as Rosalie Hall, a home for unwed mothers). A Catholic charity such as this one should replace “Aid to Women”.

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